The colonel leaned back against the mantel’s edge as if for support. All the fight was out of him. Not only was the situation greatly complicated, but he himself was his host’s debtor. The seriousness of the whole affair confronted him. For a brief instant he gazed at the floor, his eyes on the hearthrug, “Have you any money left, St. George?” he asked. His voice was subdued enough now. Had he been his solicitor he could not have been more concerned.
“Yes, a few thousand,” returned St. George. He saw that some unexpected shot had hit the colonel, but he did not know he had fired it.
“Left over from the mortgage, I suppose?—less what you paid out for Harry?”
“Yes, left over from the mortgage, less what I paid Gadgem,” he bridled. “If you have brought any more of Harry’s bills hand them out. Why the devil you ask, Talbot, is beyond my ken, but I have no objection to your knowing.”
Rutter waved his hand impatiently, with a deprecating gesture; such trifles were no longer important.
“You bank with the Patapsco, do you not?” he asked calmly. “Answer me, please, and don’t think I’m trying to pry into your affairs. The matter is much more serious than you seem to think.” The tone was so sympathetic that St. George looked closer into his antagonist’s face, trying to read the cause.
“Always with the Patapsco. I have kept my account there for years,” he rejoined simply. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because it has closed its doors—or will in a few hours. It is bankrupt!”
There was no malice in his tone, nor any note of triumph. That St. George had beggared himself to pay his son’s debts had wiped that clear. He was simply announcing a fact that caused him the deepest concern.
St. George’s face paled, and for a moment a peculiar choking movement started in his throat.
“Bankrupt!—the Patapsco! How do you know?” He had heard some ugly rumors at the club a few days before, but had dismissed them as part of Harding’s croakings.
“John Gorsuch received a letter last night from one of the directors; there is no doubt of its truth. I have suspected its condition for some time, so has Gorsuch. This brought me here. You see now how impossible it is for my son to be any longer a burden on you.”
St. George walked slowly across the room and drawing out a chair settled himself to collect his thoughts the better;—he had remained standing as the better way to terminate the interview should he be compelled to exercise that right. The two announcements had come like successive blows in the face. If the news of the bank’s failure was true he was badly, if not hopelessly, crippled—this, however, would wait, as nothing he might do could prevent the catastrophe. The other—Harry’s being a burden to him—must be met at once.
He looked up and caught the colonel’s eye scrutinizing his face.